create / 2014

Permanent Workshop for Would-Works

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Would-Works

Would-Works is seeking permanent workspace to grow!


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Would-Works is seeking permanent workspace to grow!

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Would-Works provides men and women living in poverty the dignity of working to meet their own needs. We strive to alleviate immediate financial stress by providing a way for people to earn money for a specific goal related to moving into permanent housing or maintaining housing.

Would-Works works to achieve three primary outcomes: meet specific needs of individuals living in poverty, provide them with job skills, and create retail products. The process to achieve these results is simple: an individual comes to Would-Works with an immediate need and works creating high quality, hand-finished products. These products are then sold through retailers and on our website.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Launched with bootstrap funding in 2012, Would-Works has spent the past two years proving the validity of the concept of empowering individuals to improve their situation. Would-Works has tested and refined an approach that is now ready to grow. With funding from LA2050 Would-Works will secure permanent space in which to hold workshops, hold them more often, develop a marketing approach that will keep product sales robust, establish partnerships with relevant groups and enterprises and continue to develop products.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

Would-Works CREATES opportunities. Would-Works CREATES quality products through collaboration. Would-Works CREATES a vibrant program highlighting a forward-thinking environment present in Los Angeles which can be a role-model for the rest of the country. We are proud of what we have achieved as a small organization so far, but we are ready to grow and have a larger influence.

In 2050 we see Would-Works continuing to empower some of the most disenfranchised and chronically unemployed individuals in Los Angeles to CREATE hand-made products. Would-Works anticipates being a part of the movement to greatly reduce homelessness in Los Angeles. Would-Works plans to continue to provide the opportunity for women and men to CREATE their own opportunities out of homelessness through the dignity of working for one’s own need.

Whom will your project benefit?

In Los Angeles, 254,000 men, women and children experience homelessness during some part of the year and approximately 82,000 are homeless on any given night, according to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty (Weingart Center, 2014). In the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, over 5,000 are homeless. Further, 65% of the adults in Skid Row live on less than $10,000 a year. This is the population that Would-Works seeks to help. Would-Works addresses both the causes and the impacts of poverty and homelessness by helping people overcome barriers to employment and permanent housing by working to meet their own needs while becoming more employable in the process. With funding from LA2050, Would-Works will be able to focus on expanding the model. More workshops will be held; not only in Skid Row but also in additional areas and serving additional population groups. Would-Works has explored growth within several population groups. For example; the young adult population that has aged out of the foster system is a specific group that is in need of resources. By identifying specific groups, Would-Works can tailor the model to maximize impact on population segments.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We understand that to end an individual’s homelessness, we need to work with a number of partners. In addition, our products reflect collaboration and partnership for design and resources. With this in mind, we seek to establish partnerships on all sides of our business.

Work Session Partners:

Our work sessions have agency partners before and after the work is completed. Our Charter model has social services agency partners who refer men and women to the workshops. These social services are working with the individuals and help to identify the immediate need for which a person needs to work. We have currently partnered with Central City Outreach Center to refer men and women to the program and have informal agreements with permanent supportive housing providers as well. We have had inquiries for partnership from numerous social service agencies, schools, and training programs. However, before we can establish new partnerships we are focused on developing a permanent workshop to accommodate the large volume of referrals.

Design Partners:

In addition to partners for our work sessions, we are also committed to partnering for design. We strive to create high-quality, hand-crafted products in downtown Los Angeles. To accomplish this, we have partnered with some designers to create products and plan to expand our design partnerships. We partnered with the Department of Design at Cal State Long Beach to create future products. We also collaborated with style blogger, Almanac of Style, on a limited edition product.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in creative industries
  • Concentration of manufacturing activity in LA
  • Jobs per capita
  • Gini coefficient
  • Number of high-growth startups
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Unemployment rates (and opportunities) for the formerly incarcerated (Dream Metric)
  • Employment opportunities for individuals who are homeless or chronically unemployed in Skid Row

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Focusing on small manufacturing, Would-Works is committed to increasing job opportunities for individuals who are homeless or chronically unemployed in Los Angeles. A disproportionately high number of individuals who are homeless have also been incarcerated and Would-Works provides an opportunity for these individuals as well. Would-Works plans to grow from a small, bootstrapped start-up and sell products nationally. We see our organization covering many LA2050 categories such as LIVE and LEARN and PLAY, but we are most focused how we can CREATE opportunities.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Because of the structure of the Would-Works model, evaluation is simple. By reporting the number of Artisans who enter the program and the number of goals completed, Would-Works can track outcomes and social impact of the program. Further, Would-Works is working on a tracking system that will follow up with Artisans after they leave the program to ascertain how many have secured employment and/or permanent housing. This follow-up will determine the effectiveness of the program in each segment and help determine where Would-Works should concentrate. Through partnering with service agencies, Would-Works will be an integral part of lessening the negative effects of poverty in Los Angeles.

We are also working to establish employment partners who will employ men and women who have worked for Would-Works and are interested in seeking part-time or full time employment. We will work to establish a streamlined process for our employment partners to hire Would-Works Artisans.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Simply stated, the two most important lessons have been: -Seeing the need -Seeing the response to the Would-Works solution

While working in Skid Row beginning in 2009, Would-Works co-founder, Connor Johnson saw the need for a new form of ‘assistance’ and decided something needed to change. Johnson heard over and over that those living on the streets of LA “would work” if they could. Johnson saw the need to dignify the circumstances in which so many were living. By offering a “hand up vs. a hand out” the Would-Works model addresses the immediate need while providing a sense of dignity and goal-setting with individuals living in Skid Row. Because money management can often a barrier to success, the credit system created by Would-Works enables Artisans to participate in improving their circumstances.

The response to the Would-Works model has been overwhelming, both within the community it serves and with the public. Men and women in Los Angeles who have specific needs have come to know Would-Works and refer others to the Pop-Up Workshops. Both retail and online sales have proven that more products will be well received. Would-Works has been delighted to learn that people are interested in working for Would-Works and that consumers want to engage in this process by purchasing products that make a positive impact in the community. These two lessons have been invaluable.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Because Would-Works was started and has grown modestly through bootstrap funding over the last two years, the time is right for significant growth. All systems and processes are in place and ready for the infusion of funds necessary to take the tiny program to a much larger audience. With funding from LA2050 Would-Works will begin immediately to put its growth plan in place. Moving from an average of 45 individuals achieving goals per year, Would-Works will move toward a goal of 450 Artisan goals achieved in a year, or ten-fold growth.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Two major barriers to Would-Works growth have been: -Having permanent workspace -Developing new products

Because of its bootstrapped beginnings, Would-Works has been holding Pop-Up Workshops in an on-demand basis at donated space in Skid Row. Though this has been effective, the lack of structure and permanence has been a frustration for founders and occasional confusion for Artisans who already deal with a significant amount of impermanence. With dedicated space Would-Works will be a better-known part of the community. Artisans and potential Artisans can stop by and learn of scheduled workshops. Dedicated space will also help with publicity and funding, as those interested in the concept will know where to find Would-Works.

Product development and sales is a constant need for Would-Works. Current products include: -Three different sizes of cutting boards -Kubb lawn game -Bottle openers

Future products, including door openers (door stops), clipboards and bike crates are all in development. An aggressive national sales campaign will make products available to a large audience. Additionally working with a designer to create new products for Would-Works will be integral to our growth.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach